Mesa County Commissioner Janet Rowland (pictured) could have been Colorado's lieutenant governor; she was Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez's running mate. But since losing out on the opportunity to serve in the state's second-most powerful office, she appears to be trashing journalism ethics one medium at a time: first TV and, last week, newspapers.
Earlier this year, Rowland signed on as a legislative reporter for KKCO, an NBC affiliate in Grand Junction. As noted in this Colorado Confidential blog item from January 5, Rowland has deep and personal connections to many of the folks on this beat -- a fact that Michael McDevitt, a CU journalism professor, called an obvious conflict of interest in a conversation quoted by Grand Junction's largest newspaper, the Daily Sentinel. Nevertheless, KKCO news director Jean Reynolds defended the decision to hire Rowland in a Sentinel interview (she didn't return a call from yours truly). Today, "Capitol Watch," a feature that lists Rowland as its co-star, has a prominent place on the KKCO website.
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In contrast, Rowland was recently dismissed by the Grand Junction Free Press. Amid a February 3 apology to readers, Free Press managing editor Josh Nichols explained that approximately 75 percent of Rowland's February 1 offering "was copied verbatim from [a] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services publication. No attribution was provided. The same is true for a column that ran Jan. 25. Those words were lifted from the same source."
A Sentinel report on this topic quoted Rowland saying that she couldn't remember writing the columns in question; however, she insisted she had included attribution, and surmised that these mentions had been edited out. She subsequently stated that the info she'd used was "intended for mass duplication" anyhow, adding, "There's no evil intent here. If you want to make it out that way, that's certainly your prerogative."
This comment is hardly the first from Rowland to have a nutty ring to it. Remember that she got into trouble last year for defending her opposition to same-sex unions by saying, "For some people, the alternative lifestyle is bestiality. Do we allow a man to marry a sheep?" (See this blog for more details.)
Had Rowland been elected lieutenant governor, she would no doubt be busy delivering such bon mots nonstop, and wouldn't have time to assault the tenets of journalism. Voters may have dodged a bullet, but media consumers in Grand Junction are still in her sites. -- Michael Roberts